Gamer Gameson

I have never been a gamer, so it will come as no surprise to any reader of this blog that I have little to say in favor of games about history. I share this fact recognizing my own bias in writing about my experience of thatcampgames.org.

As a curator, I see a huge value in games in presenting information, specifically those items which make audiences interact with the wall and material to learn information. If done well, a game in a museum can create a kinesthetic learning moment where many audience members will remember through action rather than simple reading.

But what about a video game? I just do not know. I obviously love digital history in general, but I find myself grappling with whether or not to deem a history game — in a gamer gameson sense — public history. In fact, that little dilemma in my brain brings me back to the very first conversation that we had as a class in Digital History in determining whether Digital History was Public History. I came to the conclusion that digital history was public history if it was done with the same critical mind and work that I consider to be public history– anything outside of the academy that is based in scholarship. service, collaboration, and immediacy. In that way, in order for a game to be public history or even digital history, to me, it has to also carry those principles.

I also really enjoy art work which plays with video games as a medium to play with people. I wonder if I would find more utility in using a game as a statement about history instead of a platform for learning engagement.

But enough meta-rambling. What to thatcampgames.org? I did not find many games that seemed to embrace what public history really does, but I did find one awesome games.

http://pacmanhattan.com/

1- This is hilarious.
2- This gets people away from a computer screen.
3- It is extremely conceptual and much more public art than anything else so it is wasteful to really discuss it.
4. You should check it out.

So I am going to switch gears and discuss a game which seems to have attempted to make gaming political. http://www.redistrictinggame.org/

The Redistricting Game takes users through a step by step learning process disguised as a game. It’s educational, but it’s not entirely thrilling to engage with it. I think this might be a large gripe I have with history games in general. If the game is too educational, it isn’t fun, and if the game is actually fun, it’s not really public history.  What I love about this game, though, is that it is overtly political in its very existence.  The creator of this game obviously wanted to make redistricting a more contextualized issue that could be accessible to people who might not normally consider thinking about it.  What an incredible use that is!  I am still not sure that makes it great from a historian’s standpoint, though.

I think, that being said, I round out my thoughts in this post thinking that if an historian took the approach of The Redistricting Game to teach a little known historical moment that needs attention in a sort of political way, I could really get behind it.  If anyone knows of a game like what I am explaining, please send it to me!

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Mapping Curatorial Practice

History Truck Curatorial Reflexive Map

The link above is a Google Map Engine Lite creation used to explore the places of curatorial practice for the History Truck in East Kensington.  It was very tempting to map warehouse fires, as I am creating a work for Manufacturing Fire that heavily uses mapping as a storytelling tool, but instead I decided to use the map as a place for reflexivity.

I chose, in exploring the practice of curating for History Truck, to map three different types of sites– places of events, places of connection, and places spent “off the clock.”  In this way, the Urban Worship Center and the Philadelphia Brewing Co. were important because EKNA meets at these spots, but places where I met with the truck team (such as Rocket Cat Cafe) also matter.  Finally, my favorite place to eat lunch in EK– Thang Long Noodle Restaurant– and my favorite cafe (Leotah’s, which is now closed and so also a memory!) are also on the map because it adds to understanding where I spent time as a curator talking to people, but also feeding and thinking between meetings.  It makes the place of East Kensington more alive in terms of what I did as a human and curator as opposed to just doing my “job.”

I think maybe I like this map so much because it makes the process illustrated below so much more human and place-based: view truck_process.

I chose to code them in the color purple by range as a test, and I loved it because it somehow coded the events that were similar in similar colors.  I have to be honest that I do not understand why that happened– I think it was because they used similar verbiage in description.  I chose the color purple as an aesthetic because purple and chartreuse are the truck’s colors.  To make the map more dynamic, I added photos to each place that reflected what they look like– either in terms of the event or the spot.

It could be interesting, thinking about a curatorial map moving forward, to keep a journal while working on the project when I shift my focus to North Philly north of Temple.  How neat it would be to read blog entries from a curator based on events and places on a map with photos.  And hey, maybe it could even have a sound component– as obvious as an inspirational oral history moment to a song clip from the music I listened to on the way to or from the event I wrote about in the entry.